Have you ever heard of “the dark side” of leadership?
This is not a term we hear in leadership conversations or read about, but the reality is that it exists and impacts department growth. Authentic and true leaders are those that want to make a difference in the profession and strive to do so-often at great personal sacrifice.
I suspect this is what comes to mind when we talk about true fire service leadership. Then, there is the dark side of leadership. Few people want to talk about the dark side of leadership. I would even suggest it could be a taboo topic however it’s out there and it’s time to start talking about it.
Star Wars And The Force
In Star Wars the “force” was meant for good and represented the noble and pure parts of leadership. Those that used the force and turned it into something evil were called the Dark-siders-a.k.a.-Darth Vader and the Sith. I enjoyed watching Star Wars because it was easy to pick out the bad guy- they looked the part and their wickedness always seemed to drip from them.
In the fire service there are some in leadership positions that understand their positions very well, but choose to use their positions to manipulate, intimidate and discourage the good people in the department in order to advance their selfish ambitions-a.k.a.-the dark side of leadership.
It’s unfortunate that some will use their leadership for selfish reasons, and it’s challenging to see it for what it is until it’s too late. This is the part that stings and hurts the good people in the department.
Unfortunately in life you can’t look for a fictional character dressed in black in the station and the wickedness isn’t as obvious as it is in a Star Wars movie but there is hope.
The Three Guidelines
Follow some simple guidelines and you will be able to detect the leadership Dark-siders.
• Look for the lack of a moral compass, as this is an obvious sign for dark-sider leadership.
• Be in tune to the little lies and if you sense that the leader is using white lies, be on your guard because there are big lies in the horizon.
• Understand if the leader is a part of the gossip and rumor mill, then rest assured this leader lacks integrity and professional ethics. It’s really sad that a profession such as ours has some that only understand the dark side of leadership, but the great people in our profession really do outnumber them.
It’s time to start talking about it and standing up to it so the great people can flourish. Ability may get you to the top, but character keeps you there-mental, moral and physical-John Wooden
Feature/Interior picture courtesy: Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner
Cover Photo: NIST